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with no incident but an occasional snare set by the
poacher's jackal in the daytime and as yet unvisited
by his employer. The jackal is the vague man, the
most familiar figure of the country-side. You may
see him every day taking mild refreshment in a

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The Yellow Van

corner of the Knuckle of Veal, while his female mate
squats outside on the sack which contains all their
belongings. Nothing is known of the vague man but
that he is one who " won't do a day's work when
there is mushrooms about." It is insufficient as a
characterization. Mushrooms do not grow all the
year round, and the vague man seems to be out of
work at all seasons. He looms particularly large
now that the game is coming to maturity. He is un-
troubled by self-respect, and therefore by rancors.
When the keepers warn him off their fields, he climbs
the fence without a word, and seems to dissolve over
its remoter side. But he has left his snare, perhaps,
for all that, and the poachers know where to look for
it on the moonless nights.

Suddenly, as the three walk, one of them stumbles
over something in the grass, and a shape rises, only,
however, to be instantly pinned to the ground again.
A timely oath serves to establish its identity with hu-
mankind. Three others come to the rescue in a
twinkling from behind trees, and the poachers stand
confessed. Arthur grasps his cudgel and advances
to the assistance of the struggling keeper, but the
other holds him back.

' ' Ware stones, sir ! Tim 's all right. He 's got
a look at un, an' that 's all he want. We '11 know
where to find un to-morrer mornin'."

The words are hardly out of his mouth when
some heavy missile makes a close shave of Mr. Good-
ing's ear, and rebounds, with a thud, from a tree to
the ground.

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The Yellow Van

" Get behind a tree, sir! They '11 smash your
face in. They got their pockets full o' that ammy-
nition, you lay your life."

The next thing is a volley of oaths and stones to-
gether ; and under cover of it the gang makes off.

" Who was they, lad? "

" Jinkins's lot."

" Wust lot in all this county, sir, bar none. Nearly
did for yours truly last year in a public where I
was havin' a glass to myself in the tap-room. A
put-up job, but they was at the bottom of it. Three
fellers, perfect strangers to me, comes in, all of a
sudden locks the door, turns out the light, an' then
makes tracks for me in the dark. I caught it, I do
assure you, sir; but I slipped under the table, an'
that kep' off the wust of the shower. When they
thought they 'd settled me, they let theirselves out,
leavin' me to guess the riddle of a broken rib. The
table suffered wust two legs kicked to splinters."

" You hunted 'em down? "

' ' 'Ow could I, when there was no swearin ' to 'em ?
They come from another part p'r'aps forty mile
away. The gangs work together for little things o'
this sort. Aye, an' they put up the money to defend
when we prosecute at the 'sizes, an' keep the famil-
ies o' them as gets lagged. It 's a great business,
poachin' is."

" So is sport," said Mr. Gooding " trust versus
trust."



199



XXII




HE duke aud his wife the " fam-
ily, ' ' as Slocum always ealled them
on these occasions arrived in a
few days.

Augusta's sense of responsibil-
ity for her second and decisive
county season was deepened by a keener sense of her
husband's importance. In London he was still, in a
sense, one of the crowd. At Allonby he commanded
homage as well as respect. The very porter that
opened the door of his railway-carriage hurried
through the operation as though in sign of a duke's
exemption from the toll of tips. Seen in his proper
setting as noble, as lord lieutenant of his county,
and as only Burke and the recording angel knew
what besides, he was manifestly a magnate of the
first rank. You would have found his territorial
mark of occupancy on maps of the planet in which
they think nothing of crowding a settlement of five
millions into a dot. His grandeur seemed to be
heightened by the quietism which, on his return,
he had resumed as a sort of second nature, and which
was in impressive contrast to the strenuousness of
Augusta's spirit. He seemed to belong to some
fabled race that moved without friction of the

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The Yellow Van

nerves, and prevailed only by the irresistible compul-
sion of silent and hidden forces.

The bustle of stately business that ensued on their
arrival was still something of a new experience for
the duchess. She was, of course, not wholly ignorant
of the peculiarity which makes our older societies,
seen from above, but a descending scale in parasit-
ism, and, from below, a Jacob's ladder leaning on
the stars. But here was the system in full view.
Only one or two of the highest officers of the house-
hold were admitted to the ducal presence, and these,
again, vouchsafed personal notice to hardly as many
more. The agent who had just had the honor of
audience passed through the antechamber without
deigning a glance to right or left. It was impres-
sive, no doubt; and so, Augusta thought, was that
court of the first king of the Medes, where all were
forbidden to laugh.

The duke seemed to find a certain comfort in it.
lie was at least among his own people. Everybody
knew him at Allonby, though he was not always
able to return the compliment. In London he was
still as obscure, in most part, as the calif in a mid-
night ramble. Lordship is sometimes too impersonal
in these days. He had once been much amused,
when taking the number of an impudent driver, to
find his own cipher and coronet on the door of the
cab. As figurehead of a hackney-carriage company,
he owned this insignificant person, and could have
crushed him with a word. He did not speak the
word, because his good nature shrank from the

2OI



The Yellow Van

thought of its devastating effects. But the offense
was grave. He might have extended his drive by at
least thirty yards for the shilling which he had ten-
dered in payment of his fare. Yet, as he alighted
at the door of his club, he was followed by the scorn-
ful cry, "There yer go, to enj'y yerself at my ex -
pense ! ' '

Augusta turned with still fuller relief to the more
human associations of the village. The Herions were
naturally first in her thoughts. She had more than
once determined to hear the other side of the story
of their exodus. As it stood in the casual notice of
Mary Liddicot's postscript, it was an act of re-
bellion. George had been " disrespectful to the
agent," as though a midge had wantonly arraigned
the splendor of the sun, and he had rashly thrown
up a profitable calling for the fatuous dream of a
" fortune in London." So had Mr. Eaif reported,
and so, without giving a second thought to it, had
Mary written. What was the truth?

Augusta soon found her way to the cottage in
which the two mothers had clubbed their fortunes
to make a home for Rose and George. They received
her with the profoundest respect, yet at first, charac-
teristically, without a single word on the subject
which was nearest to their hearts. They were too
much afraid of her for that. After all, she was
still one of the " betters " who had dealt the blow.

"It do seem a powerful long time sence your
Grace went away, sure-ly."

" Yes, and what changes! "

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The Yellow Van

" Aye at the war, loike? "

" No, at Slocum; the village seems hardly the
same. ' '

' ' Oh, that parish council ! They '11 niver get
beyand the well-water. Your Grace need n't be
afraid. ' '

Tabby Edmer, as she was called, had held the
parable hitherto; but now old Phoebe Herion broke
in with vehemence:

' ' I wish they was at the bottom of the well !
They bin the curse o' the place."

' ' Hush ! ' ' said her mate, reprovingly, and then
burst into tears.

" Tell me all about it," said the duchess, taking
a chair.

" Oh, your Grace," cried Tabby, " they 're gone,
they 're gone out of all sight and knowledge lost
i' London! Look 'ee here." She drew from her
pocket a returned letter, marked officially, "Gone
away. ' '

" What, your children? That 's nothing only
a change of lodging. They '11 soon write again. ' '

"It 's bad luck, your Grace. I know my gell.
She 's 'shamed of some trouble; that 's her sperrit."

' ' Shame for you ! ' ' said Phoebe, turning like some
vexed animal on her mate. " Shame for you, to
think your own flesh an' blood would n't have no
feelin' for your trouble, too."

"Then she 's ill or dead," returned the other,
quickly. ' ' There, now ; you 've said it yersel ' ! "

"An' my boy, too, then," faltered Phoebe, yield-

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ing to the pitiless logic of the case. Whereat the
two bereaved Rachels lifted up their voices together
in a lamentation that filled their little four-square
world with woe.

" There may be some mistake," said the duchess.

"No mistake, your Grace," wailed Tabby. "Read
the prenting, ' O.H.M.S.' ' On Her Majesty's Sar-
vice'; it 's from the Queen. The first letter in all
my loife I 've iver 'ad thrown back at me in that
way. I know she was hidin' somethin' all along.
But that 's her sperrit never give in. Oh, they 're
lost! they 're lost! "

' ' We '11 find them again, ' ' said Augusta. And
she added gently: "But why did they ever go
away?"

"Because they was druv," cried the old woman,
simply, and with a touch of revolt in her tone.

" Oh, no, I assure you," said Augusta, in her
haste to console ; " I know all the facts. ' ' And then
she stopped and bit her lip with the mortifying re-
flection that she did not know a single one of them
for which she could vouch.

"You see," she went on, by way of groping
toward the light. "George was dissatisfied with
his life here, though I thought he was doing so
well."

"Dissatisfied! Your Grace, he was makin' his
fortune. Saved eighteen bright sovereigns 'n less
'an half a year."

"But he wanted to make more in London, it
seems."

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The Yellow Van

"God forgi'e me! but some un 's bin tellin' lies,"
said Tabby.

" I want the whole story from the beginning,"
said Augusta, sternly. " Right here."

Still they could not tell it ; they were too much in
awe of their visitor. These acquired habits of defer-
ence often cut clean athwart nature's rights. It
is sometimes easier with this class to die than to
offend a superior with a too intrusive claim.

So Augusta had to proceed by cross-examination.

"Was he not disrespectful to the agent?"

"Never spoke a word to the agent, or about 'un,
all the days of his loife."

Augusta was still stern. "Please do me the favor
to treat me as a fellow-creature, if we are to get on."

Plain speaking being now the line of least resis-
tance, Phcebe said: "Then you 'd better have the
truth about it duchess as y' are. He wur clean
hunted out of the place for raisin' 's voice at the
'lection. Gentlefolks won't stand that in their
'earts, though they make believe not to mind. You
can't understand how should ye? You 're a
woman from over the sea. George wur a fool, an'
spoke up, an' they 've ruined 'im. Now turn me out
on the roadside, if you like, 's well 's 'im. I doan'
much care."

Augusta jumped up, and, kissing them both where
they stood in dutiful pose before her, drew them
to her side on the old dimity-covered sofa. And
there, duchess no longer, but just woman to woman,
she heard the whole dismal story Kisbye's "mark"

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The Yellow Van

on George because of his little outburst on the night
of the visit of the van; the agent's "mark" for the
crime of leavening the parish council with a Radical
candidate. The pair had well-nigh all the talking to
themselves ; their visitor hardly spoke a word, except
to ask for a name or a date. And she was still as
sparing of speech when the tale was done. She
merely hurried back to the castle, and went straight
to her husband's room.



206



XXIII




HE was imperious no longer. On the
contrary, the duke thought he had
never seen her so radiantly cheer-
ful since they rambled through the
European cities on their honey-
moon tour. He was up to the eyes
in business, as a matter of course, but he gladly suf-
fered her to make a feint of sweeping all his papers
aside.

" Henry, you are going to make this the happiest
day of my life."

''And why not every day after it, too?" he said
gallantly. It was inevitable, with his feeling for her
and his breeding combined. His brief training as a
husband, however, had not left him free from mis-
givings of a kind. "A blue diamond is a vain thing,
my Augusta, but still"
"A blue diamond?"

' ' You Ve been reading that nonsense in this morn-
ing 's paper."

"No; only listening to two old women."
"Much the same thing, I should say. It 's an heir-
loom ; and how do we know it is in the market ? ' '

"True enough," she said, by way of taking him
in his humor. "But something else may do."

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The Yellow Van

' ' Well, let me know the worst. ' '

"A little act of justice of reparation," she said;
"a poor insignificant thing smaller than the dia-
mond, I dare say. You see, I want to let you down
as gently as I can. ' '

"Perhaps I 'm going to wish it was the diamond,
after all. Reparation for what?"

"You remember the Herions, Rose and George?
You know I told you about them the village wed-
ding?"

"I remember everything you tell me, of course;
only sometimes I 'm a little dense about names.
Anybody wanting a place?"

"That 's just it. Oh, you do guess things so
beautifully ! They 've been driven out of their place
in Slocum, and I want to bring them back. ' '

" My dear Augusta, my finite intelligence can
hardly take note of the fall of a sparrow. 'Driven
out!' I thought they were here still if I thought
anything about it, I am obliged to say. What is it
want of house-room or anything of that sort? We
can soon set that right, if it will please you."

"Henry, they have managed to offend the agent,
from no fault of theirs, and they are ruined."

His face darkened slightly. "That 's rather a
different matter. I don't like to interfere."

"Yet if it was all a wretched mistake?"

"Of course; but what the deuce is it all about,
I wonder?" he added a little peevishly, and pushing
the papers back in real earnest this time.

"Something about the election."

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The Yellow Van

''What election? There are so many of them."

"The the parish council, don't you call it?"

"Scent recovered," he said, with a smile of relief.
"My dear, what do I know about that? Yes, I do
know something, after all. Was n't your swain the
one who had his hand to the plow and looked back in
his pride to organize an ' opposition to the castle ' ? "

"I dare say."

The words meant a good deal, and they both felt
it. But she added nothing to them, and he saw
that it was his turn next.

' ' He might have contrived to be civil to the agent. ' '

"Henry, he never spoke one word to the agent,
or about the agent."

"I am obliged to leave these matters to Willocks,"
he said, looking wearily at his papers again. "One
thing I am quite sure of: he acted for what he
thought the best in the interests of the estate."

"Do you think I would have troubled you with
all this if I had not convinced myself that the mis-
take was on our side?"

Her tone betrayed a secret and a more searching
pang. The sense of injustice was bad enough; but,
human nature being what it is, here was something
worse. She had expressed a wish, and a man had
hesitated to gratify it. She had never before been
thwarted in that way. It was a new experience for
her, both as bride and as woman.

"It is hard," she said coldly.

He could not wholly miss her meaning, though
the more intimate part of it escaped him still.

14 209



The Yellow Van

" 'Pride goeth before a fall/ " she added; "but
I thought I had been so careful."

This quickened his apprehension. "Augusta,
what is it you want me to do?"

"To stand fair between them and the man who
has wronged them in your name." Her very pride
now forbade the slightest allusion to the more deli-
cate point.

"Augusta, you do not quite understand. There
is more in it than you think. We must know our
own minds."

"We must do justice."

"As much as you like, but the larger justice.
What are we here who have England in our charge
ten thousand, or a hundred thousand, I don't care
which? A handful. Where should we be, and the
country with us, if we could be made to sing small
by any bumpkin fresh from his first pamphlet on
the right of way to govern about a fifth of the hu-
man race? That 's what it comes to, in the long
run, though this one 's only beginning with his own
parish. We hold on just by mere prestige. I am
not now talking about what the penny papers call
society. I 'm talking of the whole thing, if you
will have it so the fabric of a thousand years. It
is still a government for the people instead of by
them with all imaginable respect for the Parish
Councils Act."

She was bitterly disappointed. So this was one
of the implications of the part to which she had
been disposed to take so kindly! This was the ro-
mance of the feudal relation on its business side.

210



The Yellow Van

''Oh, Henry, we want air here. It can't last."

"It has lasted pretty well," he said.

"Yes, too long, I 'm afraid. We are still play-
ing at being in the middle ages, and without con-
viction, too. We 're grown-up children now: we
must change our toys with the times."

"Toys!"

' ' These heights of worship and honor, those depths
of reverence and submission. Do let us help people
to feel that they 're alive."

"You seemed to like the toys, Augusta, when you
began the game."

The reproach stung her, for it was true. Had
she not taken a little too readily to her feudal part ?
There seemed so much to be said for paternal gov-
ernment when it was of the right sort. The duke's
duchess had naturally liked to think so, since it gave
her her opportunity (dear to every woman) as
earthly Providence. The contrast with what she had
left behind was so refreshing. How exquisite to have
about one fellow-creatures trained for the petting,
instead of a set of wild things of the wood whose
only wish was to have you out of the way! So she
had come to hold place and power in the Primrose
League, to patronize local charities, to be a sort of
mother of her people within the domain.

"I never thought of that," she said, more to her-
self than to him.

' ' Another riddle, Augusta ? ' '

"Well, that our power to keep meant so much
power to hinder and hurt."

"Power, I take it, is a sort of all-round thing.

21 I



The Yellow Van

And, you know, you 're a greater aristocrat than
any of us, if you care to look at it that way."

"Henry!"

"In your sense of the claims of mind, manners,
character that 's all I mean. ' '

"You are very complimentary this morning."

"Give us a little share in that praise, too."

"Oh, but-"

"Well, be as generous as you can."

"I suppose we 've got to be everlastingly trying
to master people in this weary old life. Still, we
might all start fair. It 's such a wayward sort of
handicap here!"

"Which the same you might rise to explain."

"The inherited deference the peak of the cap
an institution, almost an act of faith ! The paltry
village education in manhood and womanhood ! The
social system a sort of worship of ancestors, and
mostly other people's ancestors at that! The petti-
ness of it all my God, the pettiness! Anything
rather than that, even the fierce millions all straining
at the leash for they know not what, but at least for
the good of muscle and nerve."

He was nettled. "Why not? Authority must
be maintained, worse luck for those who are rather
tired of their share of the work. Is it really differ-
ent, do you think, anywhere else in the world ? ' '

She took up the challenge. "Perhaps there are
places where they leave both sides to fight it out
more according to their strength, without calling
in the catechism."

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The Yellow Van

"No doubt," he said, answering her according to
her parable : ' ' the best and the worst of places, where
both sides, good and bad, are at it for all they are
worth, with the powers that be as a mere bottleholder.
Can anybody be sure which side is going to win ? ' '

"Can anybody doubt it?" she said.

"A free fight of that sort might shake some of us
to pieces. If all are born to the conflict, they are
born to the weapons, too."

"What a reason for ruining a man because he
has shown want of respect!"

"If you come to that, what a reason for ruining
him because he wants brains!"

"It is a step forward in ruling castes, at any rate,
poor as the step is. One day I suppose we shall have
all the strength in the world at the service of all
the weakness. But, Henry, we are talking at one
another, and where are the Herions meanwhile?"

They both laughed.

This sally helped him to recover his temper, by
restoring Augusta to him in all her glory. The
curious by-play of their little scene was that the
more he opposed, the more she insisted; and as she
insisted, the more he felt the charm of the almost
coquettish wilfulness of self-respect with which she
had originally won him. Say, if you like, that he
was the more ready to be impressed by it in matters
of this sort because, in others, he was perfectly tired
of the claims of his blazon.

He yielded a point. "I can't always do as I
please. Who could, standing in my shoes?"

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The Yellow Van

She felt for him, yet she could hardly bring her-
self to say so there and then. She knew that at
times, with the solitary exception that was the all in
all for her, he was doomed to be almost as free from
personal longings, personal initiative, as the hero
of the Bhagavad. It was his business, as a patron
of his portion of the human race, to like what ought
to be liked in rigid social convention, to do what
ought to be done. Since her marriage she had been
a silent but sympathetic observer of these trials of
a fellow-creature who was everlastingly doing his
duty. He was not merely lord lieutenant of his
county : with his birth, his wealth, his position, there
was no escaping that. He was a commanding officer
of volunteers and of yeomanry; he held the com-
mission of the peace, and frequently sat in the chair
of justice at quarter-sessions. He patronized jus-
tice as he patronized the auxiliary forces, and as, in
another and a more technical sense, he patronized
the church by nominating to some four-and-twenty
pulpits. He bred impartially for the course and for
the cattle shows. It seemed all one to him, since
the region in which his lot was cast was above that
of personal tastes. It was his pride that one could
never tell what he liked best from his manner of
doing it. The only clue to his preference was to be
found when he happened to travel beyond the circle
of social obligations. Thus, while foundation-stones
were hardly to be attributed to him as creature com-
forts, there was a certain taint of relish in his free-
masonry. He bought pictures, statuary, curios,

214



The Yellow Van

without caring a fiddlestick about them, and simply
by way of being civil to the arts. His wife's after-
knowledge of all this showed her by what a mighty
effort he must have broken one link of his chain
when he stood forth before all the world to say:
"This is the woman of my choice."

But he had said it; and how could she fail in
grateful remembrance of it now?

"I understand everything," she said with great
tenderness. "I leave it in your hands."

In spite of claims that, with her, were as those
of birthright, she was still ready to yield to love
what she might have refused to principle full of
most delicious contradictions in that way, and there-
fore the true woman still, or perhaps, after all, only
the true human being. Her whole anxiety now was
to save him from the pain of the conflict which she
had raised in his mind.

"See these poor old people," she said; "hear their
story. If you are satisfied, leave the rest to me.
You need not appear in it at all."

But he was now, if possible, keener than herself.

"Better find the young people at once, and get
it at first hand. The rest will be my part." And
he led her to the door.

It was Augusta's triumph, whatever the issue.
With all the higher claims, luckily, it is the greater the
sacrifice the greater the joy. The smug religions per-
ish : the faiths that are to supplant them wisely begin
by calling for volunteers for martyrdom. Happy
the nation whose women are never afraid to ask!

215




XXIV

TILL thirsting for information, Mr.
Arthur Gooding thought he would
like to tear out the heart of rural


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